A Conservative cabinet minister has warned that the party could lose four million Remain voters if the Tories try to ‘outdo’ Nigel Farage.
Speaking on Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday politics show, secretary of state for international development Rory Stewart said that the party’s future still lay in the centre ground.
Speaking about the Conservative’s massive council election losses, he said: ‘We shouldn’t follow this idea that somehow the future of the Conservative party is trying to outdo Nigel Farage,’ he told Ridge.
He said that the Tories lost most ground in moderate, centre-ground seats, like arch-Remainer St Albans.
He argued that this means the party must avoid a no-deal scenario.
‘If we get onto the electoral maths of this, most Brexit voters voted for the Conservative party [in 2017], but four million Remain voters voted for the Conservative party.
‘If the Conservative party were to make the mistake of trying to outdo Nigel Farage … then we will lose those Remain voters, we will lose young people, we’d lose Scotland, we’d lose London, and we’d lose a lot of the most energetic parts of this country.
‘We’ve got to be a broad party.
‘We’ve got to be able to stretch all the way from Ken Clarke right the way through to Jacob Rees-Mogg.’
As well as ruling out a no-deal Brexit, this involves working for a ‘pragmatic’ Brexit that keeps us close to Europe economically, he said – but it will still be hard to get Conservative Remainers to come back to the party.
He admitted that the council elections were largely about Brexit, to the huge frustration of local councillors.
Both Labour and Conservatives are suffering from the ‘torturous, endless Brexit thing’, he said.
He disagreed that the issue was to do with Theresa May as leader, although he made no secret of his own desire to be leader himself.